By: Sandy Egan
Children are a challenge in general, but the challenge changes when they become teenagers. I have a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old, and sometimes it seems as though they are changing day to day. As they get older and ask for more freedom, I am questioned and criticized more often than the president. This happens even when my kids have been forewarned about how I would react to different situations, such as dating and going out with friends. The questions I ask aren’t out of the ordinary and seem to be totally within the boundaries of reason.
These are the questions I ask if they want to go somewhere with someone I don’t know:
- Who is that you’re going with? (Name please!)
- Where are you going?
- When will you be back?
- How are you getting there/coming back?
- Will there be parents there?
- What are you going to be doing?
Now, some of these answers may have built-in answers, such as going to the mall, movies, etc. Recently, I was asked if the child in question could go “hang out” with people at a non-specific place. When I questioned this child (see above questions), the child rolled their eyes and told me I was being “weird.” Nobody asks these questions, I was told. Nobody wants to meet the people they would “hang out” with. Don’t I trust them not to make unsafe decisions? Nobody cares about this stuff, just me. I’m being overprotective.
To this accusation, I respond with this –
- The people you want to “hang out” with are teenagers just like you. I was a teenager once. I was your age once, and believe me, I was not too sharp. Not because I wasn’t smart, but because I was a teenager. You only realize how silly you were as a teenager when you no longer are one. Therefore, your judgment is inherently flawed because it is teenager judgment. Also, you want to hang out with other teenagers. While I might trust your judgment to a certain degree because I know you, I don’t know them. When I was a teenager, most other teenagers had bad judgment, particularly when they were in a group together.
- I was pregnant with you for 9 months. I fed you, changed you, rocked you to sleep, cared for you when you sick, and worried about whether you grew too slow or too fast. I held your hand when we crossed the street and taught you how to cross it yourself. I agonized over where to send you to school, helped you with your homework, washed your clothes, made treats for you, and counseled you about friends, teachers, other parents and family. I taught you how to read, how to be polite, how to make change, how to ride a bike, how to play fair, and how to get along. I invested money and time in you, and there is nothing and no one is more important to me than you. Would you give a group of strangers a blank check for $500,000 and hope that it comes back to intact after 4 or 5 hours? How about $1,000? How about your iPhone? No? Well, that is small compared to what your value is to me.
- I know nothing bad will probably happen to you. But I need the answers to these questions because sometimes bad things do happen. I want you and your friends and anyone else to know that if something happens to you, I will find out. I will be there. I am waiting and I am prepared. I am paying attention.
Well, I’m right in the middle of the teenage years. This is the time when the parent card has to played and that you will be branded as the bad guy and the parent who worries too much. That’s our job. We can be friends with our kids again when we’ve survived the teenage years and our mutual therapy has been paid for.